Collect of the Day:
May our mouths praise you, O Lord. May our souls and our lives give you praise.
It is by your gift that we have life:
may the whole act of living be our gift to you.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.
The First Reading: James: 3:1-10: No human being can tame the tongue.
The Gospel: Mark: 9:2-13: He was transfigured in their presence.
Saint James was not one to lightly mince his words so his teachings are often directly to the point. His Epistle is one that can invoke strong emotions, and I guess he wrote it with that intention in mind. The Reformer Martin Luther, was so affected by it that he referred to it as “An Epistle of Straw,” and did not really want it in the Canon of Holy Scripture. But we are extremely lucky that it is included in the Canon, because of the timely message which it presents. That has not lost any of its relevance nearly two thousand years after it was written. In verses 5b-10 he instructs us with sum very sound advice:
” The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”
Here we are told that the tongue can cause damage like a forest fire, how true this can be, a word said in haste or anger can burn someone to the quick, a word of gossip can definitely spread as quick as wild fire. We all have said things that shortly after we wished had not uttered. But once spoken a word can never be taken back and its implications can be far reaching.
The tongue is the only part of the body that can cause damage at a distance. A careless word spoken at one end of a town or city can end up causing grief and strife at the other. I suppose if Saint James were on earth today he probably would include the fingers in the same category as the tongue, for how many words are typed in haste, anger or without thought in text messages, emails, IM and technological gadgets, even blogs. For once a word is typed and sent its physical record remains long after the anger or haste has died down, often to come back and haunt it’s creator.
It is hard to believe that such a small portion of our bodies can cause so much damage, but people have been murdered over a word, divorced through careless speech and even imprisoned wrongly through deceitful words. So we must weigh our words very carefully and not speak just for the sake of speaking, or to fill awkward pauses in conversations, silence is a part of communication as well. So if it must be forced perhaps it is better left unsaid. St. Gregory the Wonderworker has some good advise for helping us in controlling our speech:
“It is a good thing to use the tongue sparingly, and to keep a calm and rightly balanced heart in the use of speech. For it is not right to say things that are foolish and absurd, or to utter all that occurs to the mind. We ought instead to know and reflect that, though we are far separated from Heaven, God hears what we say, and that it is good for us to speak without offense.”
In the tenth chapter of Book One in ‘The Imitation of Christ’ Thomas A Kempis gives this advice on the tongue;
Avoiding Idle Talk
SHUN the gossip of men as much as possible, for discussion of worldly affairs, even though sincere, is a great distraction inasmuch as we are quickly ensnared and captivated by vanity.
Many a time I wish that I had held my peace and had not associated with men. Why, indeed, do we converse and gossip among ourselves when we so seldom part without a troubled conscience? We do so because we seek comfort from one another’s conversation and wish to ease the mind wearied by diverse thoughts. Hence, we talk and think quite fondly of things we like very much or of things we dislike intensely. But, sad to say, we often talk vainly and to no purpose; for this external pleasure effectively bars inward and divine consolation.
Therefore we must watch and pray lest time pass idly.
When the right and opportune moment comes for speaking, say something that will edify.
Bad habits and indifference to spiritual progress do much to remove the guard from the tongue. Devout conversation on spiritual matters, on the contrary, is a great aid to spiritual progress, especially when persons of the same mind and spirit associate together in God.
I hope these passages help you as much as they have helped me.
A Prayer For Wisdom
O’ Father in heaven, we pray that you put the wisdom of your light and truth in us!
We pray that your truth will be a lamp for our feet and we stumble not! For the world is in darkness!
Rain your light and truth down upon us O’ Lord and we will turn to the way that is right!
Give us of your wisdom Father God, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour; Amen.